Two seasons ago, Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent tweeted out a picture of his client getting stabbed in the back by Vegas after they went out and acquired Robin Lehner. If Jack Eichel’s agent were just as ruthless, he probably would have posted something similar to that image. The main difference between the two scenarios: Eichel’s situation doesn’t seem to have a resolution in sight, whereas Fleury is now a Vezina candidate with the same Golden Knights.
Undoubtedly the biggest name floating around this offseason, the acquisition of Eichel from Buffalo won’t be a cheap one. At the deadline, the Sabres parted ways with Taylor Hall for what was a consensus underwhelming return. General manager Kevyn Adams would be wise to avoid that same mistake again, and one can predict the Sabres asking price for their All-Star center is astronomical.
But after their brief rebuild — one Buffalo fans probably saw develop and think why couldn’t this be us — the New York Rangers have the combination of draft capital, NHL talent, and prospects to put together a handsome offer for the 24-year-old. Of course, to get, you have to give, and not all your prospects will pan out at the NHL level. So Rangers’ brass has the difficult challenge of offering Buffalo an attractive trade package of prospects that they think will not reach the same potential as the other youngsters they possess.
Building a quality trade package for Eichel is no easy task, especially after factoring in his neck injury. The Sabres’ captain missed the majority of the 2020-21 season with a neck injury that both he and the Sabres clashed heads on regarding the proper treatment. Now that lingering issue raises red flags for teams looking to trade for Eichel, perhaps even decreasing his value on the market.
Without further ado, let’s build the Rangers’ ideal package for Jack Eichel!
Tossing in the Rangers’ first-round selection in the upcoming draft is a no-brainer. There is no need for the Rangers to use that pick at 15, and after three seasons of continuous draft success, the Blueshirts can now afford to move that pick in a deal for a bonafide talent.
With that said, adding the 15th overall selection to this trade package seems to be the only piece that is set in stone. I’m sure Rangers general manager Chris Drury will have no problems adding it, but the remaining pieces is where the head-scratching is bound to occur.
Without a doubt, the toughest aspect of this trade proposal to piece together is which prospects to send over to Buffalo. The Rangers have several high-level prospects in their pipeline right now, most of whom they would prefer to keep. Projections and roster needs are two categories that will likely determine which prospects stay and which prospects go.
In my mind, you have to try to get this trade done if you are Drury without the names Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Nils Lundkvist, and Braden Schneider going the other way. You may ask why Schneider is coupled with these other highly-touted players? The answer is simple — the Rangers traded up to draft him, he’s continuously improved, and new head coach Gerard Gallant got a glimpse of his potential at the IIHF World Championships.
With Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, K’Andre Miller, and Nils Lundkvist already penciled into five of the defensive spots, the glut of defenders in the cupboard will likely get spent on this deal. I, for one, am intrigued by Brayden McNabb filling in the sixth spot as an offseason UFA, and with that logic in mind, I will send over two defenders to Buffalo.
The two picks are Zac Jones and Matthew Robertson. I am aware the Zac Jones pick may not be the most popular, but with Fox and Lundkvist filling the role of the undersized, offensive defensemen, Jones does, in fact, become expendable. Vitali Kravtsov is an interesting name as well. If Buffalo is looking for a forward prospect instead of two defensemen, Kravtsov could be on the move in return.
The Roster Player
There are three candidates for roster players to be moved to Buffalo in this deal. Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil, and Pavel Buchnevich are all options in this proposal. Chytil appeared poised to take that next step during the 2020-21 season, but an early injury derailed a phenomenal start. At just 21 years old, the Czech native has all the tools to succeed on both sides of the puck, but faceoffs have remained an area of concern, especially if he envisions himself as a long-term center in the NHL.
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Buchnevich was the Rangers’ most consistent forward last season despite being on the trade block for multiple seasons (from ‘Burning Rangers questions for Chris Drury and Gerard Gallant’, NY Post – 06/21/2021). Under a new coach, his game can elevate further or plateau, but if the Rangers deem him a necessary piece for contention, he will remain on the roster. However, if they view him as a roadblock for a younger player reaching his full potential, they could very well move him.
My choice to be moved is ultimately Strome. $4.5 million is a hefty cap hit for a third-line center, which would likely be his role after Eichel’s acquisition. Strome also commands a new contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, which means the Rangers avoid adding another contract to an already cap-strapped roster. A quality NHL center, the Sabres would be getting a capable Eichel-replacement in this trade if they acquire the Ontario-native.
Strome has been a great Ranger, meshing well with Panarin and setting career-highs in point totals during his tenure. Unfortunately, he might be a casualty of the salary cap and becomes the most expendable forward on the roster in a trade for Eichel.
The Final Proposal
So after some deliberation and weighing what I thought was both fair compensation and a win for the Rangers, my final trade offer for Eichel is this:
Buffalo Receives: 2021 1st Round Pick (15), D Matthew Robertson, D Zac Jones, F Vitali Kravtsov, F Ryan Strome
Rangers Receive: F Jack Eichel
There is no question this is a haul for Buffalo, but you are receiving one of the premier young talents in the league in exchange. He is young, on a long-term contract, and fits the path the Rangers rebuild has taken. Undoubtedly, the Rangers are a better team with a healthy Jack Eichel in the lineup. If the front office deems his health is not an issue and Eichel will be as effective after surgery as he was prior, this is a move that should be made.
Not every Rangers writer here at The Hockey Writers is a fan of trading for Eichel. Scott Blair said if he was given a choice on moving prospects for the Sabres captain he would say “No deal.” “If someone was forcing me to take the trade – Two first-rounders and Sabres eat half of his remaining salary. Save some prospects to trade for a power forward/gritty player or two.”
So now I toss it to you. What are your mock trades for Eichel? Drop them in the comments below!
Brendan Azoff is a THW contributor and podcast host dedicated to covering the New York Rangers. His passion for hockey started when he first laced up the skates at three, growing into his love for writing and talking about the greatest sport in the world. His podcast, The Backcheck, breaks down the Rangers, Islanders, and NHL news and can be found on The Hockey Writers Podcast Network and Belly Up Sports. Brendan has been writing about the Rangers and the NHL for over two years, with his content also found on Puck Prose, Blue Line Station, and E2G Sports. If you want to connect with Brendan and stay up-to-date on his posts, follow him on Twitter. He is always available for content ideas and interviews, don’t be afraid to ask!